Note from my Pal Ed Haerter this morning, re the TIME story and other militaria. Most people today, even the adults are totally clueless about what went on during the cold war and most kids don’t even know what the term means. But here’s one anecdote of the kinds of things that happened.
I read your posting about the bailout flight. OMG, what a goatrope. You guys were really fortunate, not only to survive, but to not get hurt.Never had to use a chute. Got hit a lot in Vietnam, but always felt I’d stay with it until it got untenable in then cockpit or the aircraft was out of control. Had to deadstick an F-100 into Gila Bend when I was a student. Engine flamed out at 42,000′ in a fight. The IP was a cool guy, and he only made one remark. “If I see anything I don’t like, I’ll tell you to bailout. If you see anything you don’t like, you bailout.” It went well until I got back to Luke and the Wing CO chewed my ass for saving an obsolete aircraft and risking what he called a 2 million dollar pilot. He chewed out the IP too, but we both decided that we’d do it again under similar circumstances.
One very unusual thing happened on alert one day at O’Hare. We had two “E” models with the airline engines-real hotrods-on alert, and one day I was pulling an alert shift and we had a practice start. We’d almost finished, with the engines still running, and we got another message. The Nav, who was the chief of the Plans shop, went white. When I asked him what was wrong he said “I think it’s an actual go message. He was shaking so hard he couldn’t get the scissors out to cut open the classified package, so I had the copilot guard the brakes, and I got out of the seat and opened it. It was a real message. So, I got back into the seat and called for taxi with the proper priority words. We started to taxi, and I was kind of puzzled why there wasn’t any more message traffic, so I had the Nav contact Wurtsmith, our controlling agency, and have them say again the message. When he called them they freaked out, and said to stand down. I, of course, after sitting on Nukes for years, knew there was no “stand down” after a launch unless there were specific authenticated recall messages, etc, so I told the Nav to have them say again the message. This time a very authoritative voice came on the radio and said to return to the ramp. So, I got on the radio, and told him no fucking way, that we were going until we received a proper message we could authenticate. At that point he requested that we at least stop and give him a minute, and they came across with another recall message. I had the Nav make them authenticate it three different times, and then we returned to the ramp.
What had happened was that after the practice alert they had forgotten to turn off their transmitters and they were running a Command Post Exercise that we weren’t supposed to hear. It resulted in every agency in the world that had a classified packet having to be changed to a new one.
When we got back into the alert shack, I got a call from Wurtsmith from a very pissed off Colonel, the AD Commander, who had just been called by the Chief of his Command Post that this ANG crew had tried to start WWIII. He started screaming at me about what happened, and I cut him off by saying “Colonel, just who in the fuck do you think you’re talking to?” This is BG Haerter, 126th ARW CO. and you are totally out of line, and as soon as this conversation is over I’m calling Gen Johnson, the SAC DO and inform him about this morning’s cluster fuck, totally caused by your troops, and how totally unprofessional every one of you has been” He got really quiet, and literally begged me to not do that. However, I informed him we had to, because SAC HQ would be wondering pretty quickly just why everyone worldwide had to change out their classified package, and I didn’t want the wrong story to get there first, where they’d figure out some way for us to get the blame.
Not much happened except for some retraining for the CP troops. However, when he calmed down, my Nav was telling everyone what a steely eyed killer his boss was, and how I jumped out of the seat and ripped open the classified package with my teeth (not true), etc. I listened for awhile, and then told him, “John, the only thing I was thinking about was my pink little body. If that message was real, this place was about to become a large smoking hole in about 15 minutes, and I didn’t want to be here if and when that happened.”